Sixteen candidates are on the ballot in the Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District seat.
Longtime incumbent Republican Congressman Phil Roe announced in January he will not seek reelection.
Early voting continues through Saturday for the Aug. 6 federal and state primaries. Voters will elect Tennessee’s new congressman in the Nov. 3 general election.
Following are profiles of the 16 Republican candidates for the 1st Congressional District seat. The candidate among Republicans with the highest vote total will advance to the Nov. 3 general election to represent the GOP.
Jay Adkins, of Elizabethton, is a Johnson City native.
Adkins served in the U.S. Army from 2009 to 2016 and is an Iraq War veteran. He earned an associate’s degree from Northeast State Community College, a bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State University and also attended Samford University.
Adkins’ career experience includes working in manufacturing as a machinist and as a process engineer for the last 10 years.
Adkins is a “Christian conservative,” he wrote on his candidate website. Adkins lives in Carter County with his wife.
Adkins “believes that all the individual rights that are enshrined by the Constitution are essential to a free people. Jay opposes the surveillance state and civil asset forfeiture. He is also a strong supporter of the 10th Amendment’s guarantee of State’s Rights,” he wrote on ballotpedia.com. He supports the right to bear arms and “will work to retake our Second Amendment right the same way that it has been infringed, incrementally.”
Adkins writes that he believes “life starts at conception and abortion is killing an innocent life. I will push for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.”
Adkins supports criminal justice reform.
“The basis of our justice system is the greatest laid down by man. But over time, it has been corrupted,” he wrote “Currently, many violent crimes are not dealt with harshly enough, while non-violent offenders face unreasonably long incarceration.”
Adkins wrote he will support law enforcement, but also believes in forgiveness and second chances.
Adkins wrote that the U.S. economy relies too much on manufacturing from China.
“If we are going to Keep America Great, we must Keep America Making,” he wrote. “Much has been said in the past about energy independence. Thanks to many of President Trump’s policies, we have met that goal. I believe that it is equally important that we have manufacturing independence.”
Adkins writes that he believes in secure borders and a strong military.
Phil Arlinghaus graduated from Seymour High School in Sevier County. He attended Walters State Community College, East Tennessee State University, Graham Bible College, Montgomery College, Johnson (Bible College) University, and Global Awakening Theological Seminary.
Arlinghaus’ professional experience includes being a radio producer and working with nonprofits. Arlinghaus, 28, has been associated with the National Rifle Association, the National Sheriff’s Association, the Association of the United States Army, the Tea Party, the Tennessee Republican Party, the Republican Party, the Sevier County Right to Life group and the Tennessee Right to Life group.
Arlinghaus wrote that being adopted at birth “deeply impacted his views on life.”
He also holds an associate’s of applied science degree in cybersecurity from Montgomery College in Maryland.
Arlinghaus is married and has one child. He wrote that he is a “diehard conservative that is a true ally for President Trump.”
Arlinghaus has “a background in ministry, media, and cybersecurity.”
Three key messages of his campaign are “pro-life,” “protect our rights in the Bill of Rights” and “pro-Israel.”
“I am passionate about protecting the rights of the citizens of America. We have to build the wall, assert our interests overseas (America First), support our allies primarily Israel, and keeping our economy going strong with more tax breaks,” Arlinghaus wrote.
Growing up, Arlinghaus wrote that he found himself “falling in love with history and politics.”
Arlinghaus “firmly supports the military, veterans, law enforcement, and other first responders.”
Most recently, Arlinghaus has been in management for a nonprofit thrift store that supports a homeless shelter and programs to reenter the job market.
Arlinghaus summarized his priorities as God, the U.S. Constitution, the Second Amendment, President Trump, anti-socialism, pro-life, building the wall, religious freedom, lower taxes, term limits, military and veterans, healthcare reform, pro-Israel, online privacy, job and wage creation, America First economy, America First foreign policy and a balanced budget.
RICHARD G. BAKER
Richard G. Baker, 68, is a Johnson City native and resident, and a newcomer to politics.
“There are absolutes. There are absolute truths and my truth is the word of God,” Baker said during an interview.
Baker cited issues important to him. One is his pro-life stance.
“If I am elected I will do everything in my power to get Roe vs. Wade before the Supreme Court and get that (ruling) thrown out,” he said.
Another issue involves the seizure of property by the government for unpaid taxes.
“We need to have an amendment to ban cities and counties from seizing property for taxes. That’s unconstitutional,” Baker said. “I believe property tax is unconstitutional anyway.”
Baker is a retired taxi driver who worked at the CSX complex in Erwin. He would like to see Amtrak service to Bristol restored,”then all the way to Memphis,” he said.
Baker is a strong Second Amendment and gun rights supporter. He also believes in “anti-socialism to the max.”
“I am against the concept of the new world order and a global nation undermining our sovereign (status) as a nation,” he said.
Baker has “strong beliefs in Biblical world views.”
“The nation that turns away from God is in trouble,” he said.
Baker is a U.S. Army veteran and advocate of veterans’ rights.
CHANCE L. CANSLER
Chance Cansler is a Morristown native and resident. He is a data analyst with a college economics degree and has never run for political office.
“We must get a handle on the swamp in Washington,” Cansler wrote on his Facebook campaign site.
Cansler told guests at the Sullivan County Republican Party Reagan Day dinner that his platform has three main planks: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
It is important, he said, “to preserve life” and he is a pro-life supporter.
Cansler is a Second Amendment supporter. He said the Second Amendment serves as a bulwark for other freedoms Americans enjoy.
He believes business entities must work together to promote economic development in the Tri-Cities area. He has offered to act as a “mediator” to bring people with different types of expertise together to foster local business development.
Cansler is in favor of decreasing regulations that stand in the way of development, especially those that create difficulties for small businesses.
It is important for future generations, Cansler said, to balance the federal budget.
Cansler supports President Donald Trump’s efforts to build a border wall and encourage legal immigration to the U.S.
Cansler says corruption in Washington must be curbed and that he would work to ensure that tax dollars generated here are returned to the 1st Congressional District.
“We must decrease corruption in government,” he said.
John Clark has been a Kingsport and Northeast Tennessee resident for 25 years. Born in Havana, Cuba, he immigrated to the United States at age 2 with his parents and two brothers, fleeing communism “in favor of the freedoms and opportunities that America offered.”
Clark was raised in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, where he and his family became American citizens in 1970. Clark first came to Northeast Tennessee to attend the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where he met his future wife and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1980.
Retired after a career with the Dupont Company, Clark served first as an alderman and then as two-term mayor of Kingsport.
During his time as mayor and as alderman, Clark “represented conservative Republican values,” his campaign website said.
Clark’s primary achievements as mayor, according to his campaign website, included working with city partners to help achieve excellence in education, workforce development, jobs, health and wellness, housing, and infrastructure while maintaining Kingsport as having the lowest cost of living in the Tri-Cities.
Clark’s stated goal is “improving the quality of life for all residents of the First District with special opportunities for veterans and farmers.”
Clark characterizes himself as “a conservative Republican, man of faith, dedicated family man, businessman and public servant from a family of educators, law enforcement, military personnel, and farmers.”
“I’m running for the First Congressional seat because I have a passion for public service and I want to make a positive difference for you by improving your quality of life and ensuring a prosperous future for our region,” Clark wrote in a Ballotpedia questionnaire.
Clark’s areas of interest in the field of public policy include “better, higher-paying jobs,” “better health care,” “preserving our freedoms” and “lower taxes for all.”
Clark said the most important characteristics and principals of an elected official “include honesty, integrity, authenticity, accountability and responsibility.”
Rusty Crowe has almost 30 years of legislative experience serving in the Tennessee State Senate.
First elected in 1991, Crowe represents District 3, which includes Washington, Unicoi and Carter counties, The district has also included Hawkins and Johnson counties in the past.
He is chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, a member of the Education and Government Operations committees, former chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Veterans Affairs, and a current member of the Governor’s Council for Armed Forces, Veterans, and Their Families. He began his public service when he was appointed commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Corrections in the late 1980s.
Among the issues Crowe sees as important are immigration, healthcare, safeguarding Second Amendment rights, jobs and welfare, education, national security and veterans, protecting life, supporting Israel and supporting the growth of small businesses, according to his campaign website.
Crowe states if elected, he would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act in favor of market-based, patient-centered reforms that put physicians and patients in charge.
Welfare reform should be state-controlled, the candidate states, and he supports programs that require able-bodied recipients to contribute, work or be involved in education in order to receive assistance.
Similarly, Crowe states on his website that he believes in local control over public schools.
As a state senator, Crowe voted to defund Planned Parenthood and redirect those funds for the care of women to the Tennessee Department of Health. He states on his website that he is pro-life and “will continue to carry myself as a Christian lawmaker, always pursuant to faith and family as a proud parent.”
Crowe is a Vietnam veteran, serving as an intelligence specialist. He then served with the FBI while earning a law degree at night. Crowe held a position at East Tennessee State University for several years and now works in wound care and hyperbaric medicine.
Steve Darden has experience on the local level in elected office, serving three terms on the Johnson City Commission including serving as mayor.
As mayor, Darden helped lead the effort to revitalize Johnson City’s downtown area and fostered growth in tourism through development of parks and the Tweetsie Trail, according to his professional biography.
Darden stated on his campaign website he is running for Congress “to make life better for the people who live in the 1st Congressional District of Tennessee.”
Government should protect the right for every person to build a successful life and support that freedom, he continued. “The best social program is a good job,” he stated on his website. “I will help bring good jobs to every community in our district as well as promote tourism to our beautiful, natural attractions as well as our historical and entertainment sites.”
Health care is too expensive for the middle class, according to Darden. He has initiatives in mind if elected that include an overall focus on population wellness, more support for health care educational programs, finding less costly alternatives to in-person visits with a doctor, and allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs.
Darden states he supports initiatives to combat the flow of illegal immigrants into the country. A fair route to citizenship must be offered that honors the law. “We must also assure that an affordable and user-friendly seasonal worker program is in place that supports agriculture in the First District and assures an ample labor supply,” he stated on his website.
Preserving the farm culture in the region is imperative, he stated, supporting lessening regulations that make it difficult for farmers to earn a living and entering trade deals that maintain a level playing field for American agriculture.
An attorney for 34 years, Darden is a managing partner of Hunter, Smith & Davis and has primarily practiced labor and employment law.
Although Chad Fleenor’s name appears on the ballot, the Gray resident has unofficially withdrawn from the the race, according to an announcement on his campaign Facebook page. On that page, he also announced he was supporting Jay Adkins in the race.
Robert Franklin of Elizabethton has sought the First Congressional District seat twice as an independent, running previously, in 2014 and 2016.
In a political advertisement, Franklin states that “it’s time for a positive change in Washington and it begins here in East Tennessee.”
If elected, Franklin states he will work for an increase in pay for all Social Security, retirement and disability recipients. He will also advocate for the addition of dental, vision and hearing benefits into all state and federal health insurance plans.
Franklin supports term limits and measures to reduce the national debt. In regard to immigration, he states he would like to see the laws enforced.
A native of East Tennessee, Franklin is a seventh generation military veteran, having served in the U.S. Navy as an engineer on an aircraft carrier.
After returning home from active duty, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He has 22 years of working with the U.S. Department of Defense and 33 years of experience in local real estate marketing. In his advertisement, he states that he is a relative of Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin also encourages people to honor American veterans by voting. “Freedom isn’t free,” he states in the advertisement. “Our country and resources shouldn’t be given away.”
Dr. Josh Gapp, a cancer pathologist with medical practices in Johnson City and Knoxville, is seeking his first elected office.
Three key messages of his campaign regard the political climate in the United States, Gapp wrote in a candidate survey on the Ballotpedia website.
“Political correctness has become a cancer that threatens our God-given rights,” he stated in his answer.
In response to a question about challenges the country faces, Gapp responded, “The greatest threat we face is an enemy within. The radical, liberal activists are using political correctness to attempt to undermine America’s institutions, values, our Constitutional rights and create a radically new country in their image.”
Gapp said another key message he wants voters to remember is that he has not accepted any donations from special interest groups and politicians. He indicated in the survey that he supports a three term limit for the House of Representative and a two term limit for the Senate.
As a physician, health care is one policy area that captures his passion, he stated in the survey.
Starting his first business as a teenager and an employer since he was 21, Gapp wrote he is also passionate about ensuring there is an environment in this country where entrepreneurship can thrive without burdensome regulations.
Education and early childhood development are also another passion for Gapp and his wife, Angie, with their investment in a pre-school and day care operation.
Gapp is the oldest of seven children and spent his early years growing up in a trailer park, but was raised to believe in the American dream. Gapp said he has pursued that dream as an entrepreneur, business owner, employer and doctor in his Ballotpedia survey. He began a business with his wife when he was 21 and then decided to go to medical school while running multiple businesses. Gapp later went back to school to earn his master’s degree in business in 2013.
Sullivan County native Diana Harshbarger, who grew up in the Bloomingdale community and now lives in Kingsport, is running for Congress as what she calls “an unapologetic conservative Trump Republican” who believes that “fringe liberals threaten the future of our country with the false promises of socialism.”
Saying on her campaign webside that illegal immigration is “one of the most pressing issues of our time,” she pledges to “work with President Trump to build the wall on our southern border, deport dangerous illegal aliens from our country,” work against “sanctuary policies that place the security of our nation and citizens in jeopardy.”
Regarding gun rights, she says: “Our right to self-defense, whether it be from a home invader, an attacker on the street, or a tyrannical government, is one of our most sacred rights” that she will “fight tirelessly” to protect.”
She favors “term limits on all federal offices.” She favors three moves to counter the opioid crises: “cracking down” on heroin and fentanyl, increasing funding for rehabilitation resources and holding accountable those who have caused the opioid crisis.
A graduate of East Tennessee State University and Mercer University College of Pharmacy, she has been a licensed pharmacist since the 1980s, and is a long-time business owner.
She supports a strong military, anti-terrorism efforts, and “would support a bill to punish China for what they have cost Americans and citizens worldwide because of their negligence. Additionally, I would support more sanctions on the Chinese government. I stand with President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda.”
She is pro-life, pro-business, supports veterans, first responders, religious freedom, educational improvement, agriculture and farmers, and favors more involvement of women in public leadership.
She maintains that Obamacare has had a “devastating impact on the pharmacy profession as well as every American.”
Harshbarger has identified several areas in which she hopes to build citizen/government “coalitions” to advise and impact public policies.
Fifth District Tennessee Representative David Hawk is seeking to enter the federal political realm in his race for the congressional seat being vacated by Phil Roe.
Issues upon which the Greeneville resident is focused include improving mental health care and substance abuse treatment. Hawk has noted: “One out of every four families in our country is dealing with some type of mental health or substance abuse problem. This issue has been swept under the rug for far too long and must be addressed.”
Another concern for Hawk is improving the country’s infrastructure, parts of which “are beginning to crumble.” These needs can be met with “responsible budgeting,” he says on his campaign website.
Hawk also wants to see care and support of veterans continued and improved. “Services through our regional Veteran Affairs facilities must be maintained and increased,” his campaign materials state.
Hawk also favors “President Trump’s efforts to strengthen job creation in the U.S. by putting our people back to work, creating the products of the 21st century.” As a resident of an agricultural region and county, he also has expressed support for farmers and programs that bolster their work.
Hawk says he “has supported pro-life and pro-second amendment legislation and has always been a proponent of expanding individual freedoms, promoting a strong economy, and eliminating barriers to fiscal and economic growth.”
Throughout his tenure in the Tennessee General Assembly, Hawk said he has “consistently maintained a conservative voting record. Hawk says on his website that he has the “highest lifetime conservative voting record of any Congressional candidate,” scoring 89 percent on the most recent scorecard of the American Conservative Union Foundation Center for Legislative Accountability.
Blountville’s Timothy Hill, who represents District 3 in the Tennessee House of Representatives, vows in his campaign for United States Congress to stand, if elected, for “the right to life, our Second Amendment rights, balanced budgets, and smaller government.”
He supports congressional term limits, and has pledged to “stand with Trump and take back our streets.”
Hill calls himself a “proven conservative and 100 percent ally of President Trump.”
Hill supports building a southern border wall. “Illegal means illegal. Every state is a border state. Every town is a border town.”
Further, Hill has pledged to “fight socialism” and oppose every “socialist influence trying to drown out our country.”
He supports freedom of worship, he says, and “will fight to protect this freedom.”
Regarding taxes and spending, he has said, “As a state legislator in Nashville I have fought tax increases, and will do the same in Washington; because the Swamp has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”
In interviews after he announced his candidacy, Hill said he felt “compelled” to run because he saw a need for both socially conservative and fiscally conservative voices in Washingon, D.C.
He also said that he has a political record to back up his credentials as a conservative, and that he sees himself as reflecting “naturally” the values and views of the constituency he seeks to represent in Congress.
Hiil has worked in the communications field as a talk show host, and became a co-owner in 2009 of Right Way Marketing, LLC a telemarketing firm with his brother, Rep. Matthew Hill.
In a television interview after entering the congressional race, Hill said: “The counties inside of the First Congressional District are generally very Republican, and the question before us is not, ‘will it be a Republican seat?’… The questions becomes, will the seat be conservative?”
Greene County resident Chuck Miller, a manufacturing engineer, says he is running for Congress to bring “the commitment of a military veteran and the ingenuity of an engineer” to the congressional leadership of the First Congressional District.
Miller says in campaign promotions that he is “not a politician” but “an American – moreover, an Appalachian” who has lived in three of the First District counties. “I share your pains and mindset.”
A Navy veteran, he spent five years on “a Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine, USS Von Steuben, SSBN632. I fought the Cold War. Since the Navy, I have worked on the leading edge of tele/data communications, embedded process control and renewable energy.”
While most of his opponents for the seat being vacated by Phil Roe tout their conservativism, Miller says that, in politics, he is “middle of the road,” which he believes “is where our country functions best and was meant to be.”
He sees viewpoint similarities between himself and Rand Paul, who has been described as a libertarian. “If you were to liken me to anyone in Congress, it would be Rand Paul. I stand for what I believe and will not discount that for any reason.”
In interviews, Miller has said that what is important in life are “God, family and country.” His values, he has said, were impacted by “spending months” underwater in a submarine.
Miller has cited the need for consistency in applying “the letter of the law” as a concern for the nation.
This race is Miller’s first foray into politics apart from youthful involvement in the campaign to elect the first black mayor of Atlanta.
CARTER M. QUILLEN
Carter M. Quillen tells prospective voters, “Given our limited budget, you will not see any 30 second commercials on TV about me, hear any sound bites on the radio or see my picture plastered on roadside billboards with catchy slogans. (All paid for by big donors who will expect something in return ...)”
Quillen is funding his own grassroots campaign, traveling around the First District in a van he customized and stylized himself, and by motorcycle. His campaign is a “homespun endeavor” of his own making.
He has told interviewers he considers himself the “true outsider” in the race.
“It should not cost millions of dollars to run for a public service job that pays a fraction of that,” he says on his website.
Quillen notes: “I joined the United States Coast Guard in 1976 at the age of 17. I was trained as a radioman, where I learned the imperative of good communications for the success of any operation. What we have now in this country is a serious failure to communicate. That must be corrected.”
Quillen has published the following pledge: “I pledge to labor tirelessly on your behalf to reverse these insidious trends. To work in Washington to find the truth and convey it directly to you. ... I will emphasize the things we have in common as Americans, not vilify and berate the people I disagree with ... to focus on returning our government to its constitutional foundations, and to restore the role of honesty and integrity in government while bearing true faith and allegiance to the Constitution at all times so that a government ‘of the People, by the People and for the People, shall not perish from the Earth.’”
Quillen believes life begins at conception, advocates for Second Amendment rights, and says that people seeking to become Americans “should be given due process under the law. I support a comprehensive immigration reform that incorporates elements of a merit-based system.”
Quillen is a resident of Elizabethton.
Nichole Williams, a former intern of Congressman Phil Roe, is now seeking to win the seat Roe is leaving.
The 2004 graduate of Dobyns-Bennett High School went on to Northeast State Community College and studied speech communications. She was an active leader in several campus organizations.
She interned with Roe’s congressional office in 2012-2013.
She is outspoken about her staunch pro-life political/moral views.
She also emphasizes communication as a political virtue, saying in campaign materials that she “aims to be a different type of politician, one who listens to her constituents and speaks with them daily, so she can accurately speak for them in Washington.”
Williams says that conservative ideals “must be presented with youthful vigor to ensure their survival for future generations. It’s this intense dedication, passion, and devotion that fuels her fight for The Constitution,” her campaign promotions state.
Williams is a Christian. She and her family are members of Christ Fellowship.
Her expressed political views include that “all citizens deserve a fair chance to succeed. Our nation’s success is built on the founding principles of unlimited opportunity, quality education, commitment to hard work, and the freedom to pursue our dreams.”
She advocates “restoring our federal government to the proper boundaries set forth in the Constitution.”
Williams favors building a border wall, enforcing immigration laws, balancing the federal budget, deregulating the economy, “defunding and phasing out bureaucratic agencies and ‘draining the swamp.’”
She has argued that there “should never be any law ... passed on the right to bear arms; every single one of them is anti-constitutional. The Constitution is extremely clear. It doesn’t say you can have a gun if you are a law abiding citizen, it doesn’t say you can’t have a gun if you are crazy, or disabled or making threats. You have the absolute right.”